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Can I drive non-destructively with broken power steering?
December 18, 2007 7:09 AM   Subscribe

If I drive my car (2000 Skoda Fabia, UK) while the power steering is faulty, will it damage it?

I went to start it last night and the power steering wasn't working - the warning light was lit on the dashboard, and turning the wheel had me grunting like John McClane in the middle of a bad day. I could certainly still drive it though.

It's going to need to be fixed by a professional, obviously (even changing the fluid looks to be beyond my meagre mechanical prowess), but as this is a busy time for all I may not be able to fit it in until the new year, and I've over 300 miles of family visits to do in the meantime.

So would all that steering unaided further knacker it in any way? I assume that the electronics have just taken the whole of the power steering system offline, and as I say it was alright last night, so it seems to me that I can just go ahead and take the free workout, and sort it out later ... or would that be really stupid?
posted by thoughtless to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
 
The car is designed to be drivable if the power steering fails, but it will be difficult to drive, and the lack of responsiveness could make a big difference to you in case of an emergency. However, it's unlikely that driving it will further damage the car. Have you checked the obvious, that your power steering fluid reservoir is full? I promise you that even you can find and check the power steering dipstick, and fill the reservoir if it's empty. If it's empty, it probably means you have a leak somewhere, so it will still need to be fixed, but if it's a slow leak you might be able to limp by on frequent refills until you can get to a professional.
posted by ubiquity at 7:16 AM on December 18, 2007


As ubiquity points out, it depends on the source of the problem. If your power steering is out because of something actually wrong with the steering mechanism itself-- which is a possibility-- then you absolutely should not drive it. However, leakage in the power steering fluid line is a very, very common problem, and leads to precisely the problems you mention: more difficult steering, especially when the vehicle is stopped. (It's almost certainly not the electrical system; that's a relatively simple system, and your car is still pretty recent for wiring to burn out, although I don't know a damned thing about Czech cars.) I've driven cars for years with leaks in the steering fluid line, adding fluid every couple of hundred miles when it started to get tighter; that sort of leak isn't a terrible threat.

You can probably drive it without adding fluid. Without fluid, the system is essentially the same as a car's steering system would've been before they invented power steering. But for your own comfort and safety, you may wish to go to an auto parts store, buy some power steering fluid, and ask a clerk to show you how to check the fluid and add some if needed. It should take no more than five to ten minutes, and it'd make your holiday driving a good deal more comfortable.
posted by koeselitz at 7:35 AM on December 18, 2007


I recently had the exact same problem in my 1990 Acura. At the time I thought it was just a "needs power steering fluid" issue. Brought it to the mechanic, and several hundred dollars later, it was fine. So, yes, it was very difficult to steer, but mostly at start up. And pretty unsafe. So get it fixed ASAP.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:04 AM on December 18, 2007


Fair answers one and all, thankyou, and pointing to a very sensible conclusion: whether it's damaging to the car or not, I really ought get it sorted out for safety's sake. So it's booked into the garage on Thursday, and I'll just have to make time. Harrumph.
posted by thoughtless at 8:31 AM on December 18, 2007


Something like this happened to my Mum's car a while back, it was the power steering belt. The car was no fun to drive, but fairly cheap and easy to fix. YMMV.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:05 PM on December 18, 2007


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